Feath­ers: A Jew­ish Tale from East­ern Europe

Heather For­est; Mar­cia Cutchin, illus.
  • Review
By – August 3, 2012
Well-known sto­ry­teller and author Heather For­est has added anoth­er Jew­ish folk­tale to her reper­toire. Her pre­vi­ous Jew­ish book, A Big Qui­et House, was a pop­u­lar retelling of the crowd­ed house” folk tale, and in this new sto­ry, she takes on the tale about the evils of gos­sip that is orig­i­nal­ly attrib­uted to Rab­bi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev. It is a cau­tion­ary tale. A rab­bi tries to teach a les­son to a gos­sipy woman by order­ing her to take a pil­low to the town square, cut it open, and then gath­er all the feath­ers togeth­er — which she can­not do. For­est retells this sto­ry in a very sim­ple rhyming style, with few words to the page. Back­ground details are unim­por­tant; for instance, we don’t know where the sto­ry takes place, who the peo­ple are, or what the nature of the false rumor is. We just know that a woman start­ed an uniden­ti­fied rumor and the rab­bi has decid­ed to teach her a les­son. This appeal­ing book will work well with very young chil­dren because of the sim­plic­i­ty of the text and the large and vibrant illus­tra­tions. How­ev­er, the cov­er illus­tra­tion of a large white cat play­ing with col­ored feath­ers is puz­zling, even though a cat appears on a few of the inside illus­tra­tions. For a more Jew­ish” and longer ver­sion, see Yettele’s Feath­ers by Joan Rothen­berg (Hype­r­i­on, 1995). For ages 5 – 8.
Lisa Sil­ver­man is direc­tor of Sinai Tem­ple’s Blu­men­thal Library in Los Ange­les and a for­mer day school librar­i­an. She is the for­mer chil­dren’s book review edi­tor of Jew­ish Book World.

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